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Friday, December 27, 2013

The Art of Networking

Networking is a critical part of growing any business. It's through networking that people are able to make connections with potential clients and others in their field, which helps them grow their sphere of influence and get their name known. While many people understand the importance of networking, few people have the skills mastered that allow them to make full use of all its benefits. Here are some tips to allow even the greenest entrepreneur to master the art of networking.

Creating an Effective 30-Second Pitch
Once you've begun to develop your business, one of the most important marketing techniques you should master is the 30-second pitch. A 30-second pitch is a brief, easily understood summary of the business that you can give when you meet a new connection.

No one wants to listen to a long-winded explanation when they meet someone new. It will drive them away and make you seem less interested in forming connections and more interested in just selling. The pitch instead should be a brief introduction to what you do and intrigue the listener into learning more. Work on developing a pitch that's informative, but also informal in tone and easy to work into a conversation.

Mastering the Business Card
Like the 30-second sales pitch, the business card should be something that helps to capture a person's eye and tells them all they need to know about your business. Networking events typically involve exchanging countless business cards and speaking with numerous people. It can be difficult to keep track of everyone. Once the event is over, people will sit down and look at the business cards they collected. The ones they can connect with a face or that spark interest are the ones most likely to be remembered and entered into a contact list.

Make sure your contact information is easy to use and displayed prominently. The headline on the card should capture the essence of the business. Consider using a unique design that complements the card and represents you (or the person you're creating cards for). The more ways the card can stand out from the crowd, without being too crowded or distracting, the better. It's not a brochure but it's a brand-building printed piece.

Widening the Circle of Potential Connections
Networking is not just about meeting potential clients. It's also about meeting others within related fields. Others in related fields can be Power Partners -- referring you to prospects and giving you the opportunity to be a center of influence sharing their information with others. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Developing a strong network within related fields can lead to recommendations, partnerships on projects, and referrals from others whose strengths complement your own.

When working on creating this branch of the network, however, it's also important to reciprocate. Few people will be interested in getting to know and work with a person who doesn't seek to help others, too.

Forming Genuine Connections
The purpose of networking is not to offer a 30-second commercial that others will forget once it's out of sight. Networking is about developing genuine friendships.

When you take a person's business card, make sure you also take the time to follow up with them later on. Send cards for holidays and anniversaries. Make it a point to check in and make occasional conversations about topics outside of work to get to know the actual person.

People are more likely to want to do business with those who are friends who care. Taking the time to develop these personal relationships can help improve your reputation and ensure you're viewed in a positive light by others in the business world.

Networking is an important part of developing a business. It's how many entrepreneurs gain mentors, friends, and business leads. Effective networking requires the ability to properly advertise your business while still maintaining an open and friendly demeanor. Keeping the above tips in mind will get you started on the exciting path of building a wide and complete network.

Peter "The Printer" Lineal
Founder/CEO
Plum Grove
2160 Stonington Avenue
Hoffman Estates, IL 60169
Ph: 847.882.4020 Ext: 133
www.PlumGrovePrinters.com

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Printing, Marketing & Promotional Products with Powerful Execution.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Preparing a Sales and Marketing Plan for 2014 - Free Ideas Book

As the year draws to a close, many companies are preparing to review and develop their marketing plans for 2014. A solid marketing plan will articulate a vision for the company in the new year, including how the group is going to expand and what the revenue goals should be. Developing a solid plan requires quite a bit of forethought and planning. Here are the three steps that businesses should use to get themselves prepared for the upcoming year.

1. Determine where the company is going



It's not enough to simply say that the company is going to make a certain amount of money in the upcoming year. A good marketing plan will determine what markets, geographical areas, and populations the business can expand into and how that will affect revenue. There should also be estimations about how much the company is depending upon past customers returning and what percentage can realistically be expected to spend again.

2. See how the company is going to get there



This will encompass the company's plan to generate revenue and meet the goals described in step one. In 2014, there are a variety of marketing techniques that should be considered. A company can produce excellent copy or presentations, but without a solid, well-rounded marketing campaign, it will go nowhere. Everyone knows about the importance of working online, but many neglect the print world. Yet a stunning 73 percent of customers prefer to receive printed announcements rather than email announcements from their preferred brands. Consider some of the following marketing techniques.

Direct mail


According to Target Marketing magazine, direct mail had the highest rating for customer acquisition, contact, and retention ROI. One of the biggest problems companies face with direct mail is that few people are experienced with the medium and how to run a campaign. If this sounds familiar, work with someone who is used to this type of print marketing.

Print advertising


Customers have indicated that they prefer paper ads, especially when shopping. An estimated 69 percent of shoppers depend on newspapers for information about brands and deals.

Integrated marketing


Many people use their smart devices for nearly everything. While print advertising is effective, it often works best when integrated with online campaigns. For example, include QR codes on pamphlets to take people to the company website or ordering page. This will drive traffic and help you reach across demographics to include everyone on and offline.

3. Measure progress and revise when necessary



Schedule benchmarks throughout the year to see how well the company is reaching its goals. These benchmarks should be reasonable and take into account how much time marketing techniques require to be effective. For example, a new direct mail campaign may not be as effective when it is first launched. After a few mailings, however, customers may begin to recognize the brand and give it more recognition.

At the same time, the team must be willing to revise when necessary. If the company is falling short, examine the ROI of different lead generation and conversion techniques. See if revisions are possible or if the budget money would be better allocated elsewhere. If the company is surpassing expectations, revise expectations so as not to shortchange what the company is capable of producing.

Developing a successful marketing campaign is an important step in preparing a company for the upcoming year. Taking the time to research and create a practical plan will give everyone a clear picture of the expectations and will guide the business to the next level.

For a complimentary copy of our Marketing Planning book, send me an email or give me a call -- or contact your Plum Grove regional sales representative.

Peter "The Printer" Lineal
Founder/CEO
Plum Grove
2160 Stonington Avenue
Hoffman Estates, IL 60169
Ph: 847.882.4020 Ext: 133
www.PlumGrovePrinters.com

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Printing, Marketing & Promotional Products with Powerful Execution.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Giving is the right thing to do... And it might advance your business

Using the Law of Reciprocity to Advance Your Business

In social psychology, reciprocity refers to the natural human tendency to want to return a favor -- to give back after someone has shown generosity to you. You've no doubt experienced such times in your own life, when you've felt such a sense of appreciation for a kindness done that you felt inclined to respond in kind. That's what reciprocity is all about.

Giving to Give -- and Build Relationships

Of course, there is another type of reciprocity -- one born more from a sense of obligation than appreciation. But that first type (the one inspired by an act of generosity) offers a far more valuable return on the good deed done. Why? By inspiring feelings of goodwill, this type of reciprocity makes the recipient much more likely to return the favor willingly, rather than through a sense of duty. Why is this important to your overall business success? Because the person who reciprocates willingly will be much more likely to stick around to continue the relationship long-term.

Giving to Get -- and Build the "Bottom Line"

The reciprocity that's based on duty and obligation is less effective because it creates feelings of unease in the recipient -- the same sort of feelings you get from owing a debt. This type of reciprocity makes people feel as if they are being pressured, or even coerced, into reciprocating.

When you give to get, it's like tying a string to the gift and continually pulling it back toward you, rather than releasing your hold on it and giving it away free and clear. This type of reciprocity isn't true reciprocity at all, since it doesn't inspire the other person to want to return the favor. As a result, it will only create resistance in your prospect, a situation that's usually counterproductive to your marketing efforts and your long-term business goals.

5 Ways to Use Reciprocity to Advance Your Business

Here are five suggestions for creating genuine, positive reciprocity in your prospects, customers, or clients:

1. Offer something for free -- with no strings attached. Giving a small gift every now and then can be a great way to say thanks to your customers for their business and their loyalty. If you do this without asking for anything in return, you may be surprised at the goodwill you build over time. Gestures like these are never wasted, even though they may not seem to be making a difference. Sincere generosity increases your customers' esteem for your business, which makes them eager to return.

2. Go the extra mile for your customer. Spend a little extra time helping a customer solve a problem. Take a moment to pass along some helpful information you come across that relates to your client's business (B2B) or your customer's interest, need, or profession (B2C). Doing something unexpectedly nice shows your customers you value them as individuals and not just as your key to profits.

3. Make things right whenever a customer is dissatisfied. This is another way to demonstrate how much you value your customers, making them enthusiastic about buying from you again despite their initial dissatisfaction. Their respect for you will grow in direct proportion to the amount of empathy, patience, professionalism, and generosity you show when such sensitive issues occur -- particularly when they are upset and reacting with impatience themselves.

4. Treat both customers and prospects as if they matter. Courtesy, friendliness, and respect will go a long way toward creating loyal long-term customers who will become the best advertisement for your brand. By making your service as personalized as you can, you tell your customer, "You are important."

5. Offer your website visitors helpful information at no charge. We love to do this at Plum Grove! By attracting people to your website with the promise of value-added content, you'll soon become the go-to source for the answers they need, and they'll value you, as well.

Try the above five tips to start laying the groundwork for the reciprocity that's sure to follow.

Peter "The Printer" Lineal
Founder/CEO
Plum Grove
2160 Stonington Avenue
Hoffman Estates, IL 60169
Ph: 847.882.4020 Ext: 133
www.PlumGrovePrinters.com
www.MailMadeSimple.com
www.PlumGroveAdSpecialties.com

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Printing, Marketing & Promotional Products with Powerful Execution.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Promises to Keep

In his classic poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," Robert Frost speaks of taking a moment to watch the snow collect on the trees along a dark lane, presumably on his way to somewhere important. He closes with these lines:


The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


As business professionals, we all struggle at times with similar feelings, conflicts, and doubts. We may want to stop for a moment in the middle of a busy day to enjoy a mental break, but in the back of our minds (or even the front sometimes), we can't shake the nagging sense that we should be focusing instead on the work that lies ahead.

Like the narrator in Frost's poem, we, too, have promises we must keep -- commitments we've made to customers, vendors, employees, colleagues, family members, and friends. That can often mean long days, sleepless nights, and not a lot of extra time to watch snow falling on trees.

In our drive to stay ahead, we often miss the forest entirely -- distracted by the hundreds of tiny details that make up our days.

That's not to say our promises aren't important. Quite the contrary. In business, our word is what ultimately matters most to our customers, shareholders, vendors, and employees. Failing to keep our commitments can have dire consequences for our companies and our reputations.

But there's also something to be said for taking the time to stop and look around. A small mental break might help to spark a bold new thought or rekindle a flame burnt out by trying to get too much done in far too little time.

Such moments are important to our own well-being and to the health of our companies. They can't come at the expense of getting things done, but they should come more frequently than many of us allow.

So as you go about managing your business, take some time to notice the little things around you. Like the fall of snow on the trees that line the path that wanders through your day.

Peter "The Printer" Lineal
Founder/CEO
Plum Grove
2160 Stonington Avenue
Hoffman Estates, IL 60169
Ph: 847.882.4020 Ext: 133
www.PlumGrovePrinters.com
www.MailMadeSimple.com
www.PlumGroveAdSpecialties.com

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Printing, Marketing & Promotional Products with Powerful Execution.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Increase Sales Through Holiday Promotions



One of the toughest parts of marketing and advertising is discovering creative, new ways to promote your business. It can be hard and frustrating work.

One way to tackle this problem is to look for reasons to run a promotional campaign. Holiday promotions are a great example of this strategy at work.

Holidays are a perfect excuse to promote your business. There are the popular holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Small Business Saturday. There are even some not-so-popular holidays. Whatever the occasion, here are some ideas to start taking advantage of this powerful marketing opportunity.

Create a Holiday Marketing Calendar

We're all busy running our companies. Planning and creating a holiday theme promotion takes time. It's easy to put it aside for later, but we all know "later" may never come. One of the best ways to remind yourself and not let a holiday pass without promoting your business is to create a calendar specifically for holiday marketing.

Plum Grove will give you a free wall calendar that shows all 12 months just so you can plan this. Take a few minutes and mark the holidays you may want to promote. Place the calendar in a prominent spot, so it will serve as a constant reminder of upcoming holiday promotional opportunities.

Thinking Cap and Promotion Time

Once you decide which holidays to promote, it's time to plan and implement. Start the process early enough so you don't have to rush and send out something not well thought out. Creative promos and copy, graphic design elements, and the offer itself are the seeds for the holiday campaign.

Ideas to hit it out of the park with your holiday promotion

Make it Relevant -- Remember that your prospects and customers see many promotional offers every day. Make your offer stand out by tying into the holiday theme, while at the same time making a strong case why the recipient should take action on your promotion.

Personalize -- Many holiday promotions are generic, which lowers the chance for success. One way of adding a personal touch to your campaign is through variable data printing. Everyone likes to feel as though you've made an extra effort on their behalf. Personalization can help show that you care.

Smart Design -- Let your visuals do the talking. Use a clean and clear design to tell the story. Choose what you want to promote, and let it stand apart by not cluttering or overcrowding the graphic layout. Need some help with your design? Just let us know.

Make your call-to-action a strong one -- Tell your prospects exactly what you want them to do next. Should they call you? Visit your store? Go to your website? Be clear and spell it out to make it easy for them.

Now it's time to let the world know about your promotion. Direct mail postcards, print and email newsletters, signs, and social media posts are just some of the ways you can publicize your campaign.

The holidays are already in your prospects' minds, so a holiday-themed promotion has a much better chance of getting noticed. You can leverage fun, creative themes associated with each holiday.

Holidays also give you a reason to offer a temporary discount or special offer with a logical end date.

Need an extra push in the right direction? 

  • Now is the perfect time to get a free new homeowner mailing list from us to kick-off a fun holiday direct mail campaign. Yep, you'll get the first list completely on us.
  • Do some early holiday shopping for your business with festive advertising products that are sure to delight the hearts of your customers and make your business stand out in their minds.
Holidays are typically a fun and festive time. They can be even more fun when customers spend their money buying what you sell! So put your thinking caps on, and don't be the Grinch by letting another holiday go by without capitalizing on the opportunity for some creative holiday promotions to grow your business.

If you liked these tips and freebies, then there's plenty more for you in store. Subscribe to our blog (on the right) and check out our e-newsletters.

Peter "The Printer" Lineal
Founder/CEO
Plum Grove
2160 Stonington Avenue
Hoffman Estates, IL 60169
Ph: 847.882.4020 Ext: 133
www.PlumGrovePrinters.com
www.MailMadeSimple.com
www.PlumGroveAdSpecialties.com

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Printing, Marketing & Promotional Products with Powerful Execution.

Monday, September 16, 2013

What are you really selling?


Behind the scenes of your business, you make products or deliver services. But on the front lines, where interactions with customers occur, you have to deliver more than that in order to have a dynamically growing company. You must deliver a promise and hope.

The promise revolves around the benefits your actual products and services deliver. The hope is what can set your business apart from all the other companies that promise to deliver the same things you do.

People want to believe in your company and what you can deliver, but many have become jaded due to the culture of over-promising and under-delivering that is all too common in the marketplace. To get past this wall of skepticism, you have to deliver more.

Companies like Coca-Cola, Apple, Starbucks, and Disney World took off when they figured out they were selling much more than a soft drink, computer, coffee, and theme park rides. These businesses understood that in order to stand apart from their competitors, they had to tell their brand stories in a way that resonates with customers.

Coca-Cola sells refreshment, happiness, and harmony. Apple sells a delightful user experience to consumers in a hip, cool way. Starbucks sells the "third place experience" -- a place to get away outside our home and business. Disney World sells memories that last a lifetime.

The common theme among the great brands of the world is that they have found a way to transcend beyond their products by asking this simple, yet powerful five-word question:

What are we really selling?

People aren't really interested in what you sell, but they may be very interested in the benefits you can deliver. These benefits in turn must be told in a way that attracts and connects with your target audience.

How You Can Apply This in Your Business?

You're probably thinking to yourself that this may do wonders for big brands, but how does it apply to my small business?
  • Take a step back from the day-to-day operations of the business, and think about what you're really selling. Railroad companies thought they were in the rail business, when they were really in the transportation business. Think about the larger implications around the results you deliver to your customers.


  • Next think about this question: What do my customers really want from our products and services? Ask your best customers why they really do business with you. Look for common themes in the answers.


  • The final step is to take the concepts you've arrived at and focus on what would move your best prospects to buy what you sell. Put yourself in their shoes. Ask some friends and associates if your idea would move them to act. Then test your ideas by presenting them in your ad copy in print, on the web, and in all your other marketing channels. Test until you find the winners. The sales result will show which one is the winner.
Take these five words: "What are we really selling?" Print them out and put them in a prominent place you can see every day. Your answer to the question will form the core around which your business and your marketing should revolve. Answer this five-word question in a way that exceeds the experiences your target market is seeking, and you'll see your business grow like magic.

Once you know what you're selling, you can confidently implement an awesome marketing plan. Direct mail postcards, print and email newsletters, signage, and social media posts are just a few ways you can communicate to your prospects.

Write us a note or give us a call at 847.882.4020 for a little extra help to boost your sales. We've got more tricks up our sleeves, so subscribe to our blog and sign up for Plum Grove's newsletters for even more (free) goodies.

Until next time,

Peter "The Printer" Lineal
Founder/CEO
Plum Grove
2160 Stonington Avenue
Hoffman Estates, IL 60169
Ph: 847.882.4020 Ext: 133
www.PlumGrovePrinters.com
www.MailMadeSimple.com
www.PlumGroveAdSpecialties.com

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Printing, Marketing & Promotional Products with Powerful Execution.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Boost Your Advertising With Postcards


You probably get at least a few postcards in your mail every day. Have you noticed that you always look at the address side first and if the message is of interest, you will flip them over, too? Postcards put the message in your hands with the immediacy of the mail -- and no envelope to get in the way of the call-to-action offer.

Postcards are experiencing a revival as business owners and marketers are rediscovering the powerful impact postcards can deliver. What's so great about postcards? Postcards have several advantages over many other marketing channels.
  • Postcards are less expensive to print.

  • They don't require envelopes or other inserts.

  • Postcards provide an instant visual connection with the recipient.

  • The limited space for copy and graphics forces you to get to the point quickly.

  • Recipients don't set them aside to read later, leading to instant reaction.

  • Postcards are great for personalization (with variable data printing - VDP).

  • Postcards work very well in driving website traffic.

  • Postcards are fantastic to use in a series sent over time to educate, engage, and drive sales.

  • Graphics and copy are easier to create.

  • Postcards work well for both short-run and larger-volume orders.

  • Postcards make great appointment reminders, thank you notes, and follow-up cards.
Of course, postcards do have some limitations. They're obviously not great for any type of promotion or campaign that needs lots of space for copy due to the size limitation. It's also not easy to generate direct sales with a postcard campaign. However, postcards are fantastic for creating awareness and generating sales leads. In fact, it's hard to beat postcards for economical lead generation campaigns.

Postcard Creativity
Postcards can be created in traditional sizes, as well larger sizes. Postage doesn't change with size so if you sell a visually attractive product then print on a bigger card. That big "billboard" style card -- 6 inches by 11 inches -- that is about the largest size you can mail and still pay the same for addressing and postage.

Using Postcards
Direct mail is only one way to use this powerful advertising tool. All you need is your targeted mailing list. You can also include postcards as part of a media or brand identity kit; as a promotional handout at trade shows and networking events; and as part of a sales letter insert.

Marketing Takeaway
The humble postcard is a powerful counter-measure to digital marketing. As more people are turned off by spam emails and other digital waste, they're paying more attention to postcards. Postcards have a higher read-rate than many other advertising media because they are easier to digest quickly.

Postcards may have a place in your direct mail campaigns. If you use eye-catching, powerful design in addition to strong, to-the-point copy, combined with a call to action, there's a great chance your target audience will respond the way you'd like when you use postcard marketing.

For more info on how we can help increase your sales through postcard printing and direct mail marketing, just click here or give us a call at 847.882.4020.

Make it a great day,

Peter "The Printer" Lineal
Founder/CEO
Plum Grove
2160 Stonington Avenue
Hoffman Estates, IL 60169
Ph: 847.882.4020 Ext: 133
www.PlumGrovePrinters.com
www.MailMadeSimple.com
www.PlumGroveAdSpecialties.com

Like Plum Grove Printers Facebook PageFollow Plum Grove Printers TwitterConnect with Plum Grove Printers LinkedInConnect with Plum Grove Printers Google+
Printing, Marketing & Promotional Products with Powerful Execution.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Do You Have a Foot-In-The-Door Strategy?

There's an extremely powerful strategy to grow your business called the foot-in-the-door (FITD) strategy. FITD plays on psychology to get to the sale. This strategy works well because it gets past the prospect's natural resistance to being sold.

The process starts with getting a person to agree to a small request that doesn't take them outside their comfort zone. From there, you build up to larger requests and bigger yeses.

Savvy business owners, marketers, and salespeople have used FITD in one form or another for years, whether they have knowingly defined it that way or not. Some may refer to this strategy as a "loss leader." The difference is that a loss leader typically involves selling something, often at a very low price or below cost. Retail businesses have used loss leaders successfully for many years. FITD works best when the first offer is for something free.

Examples of FITD
If you've ever been to the mall food court around lunch or dinnertime, you'll often see savvy restaurant owners assign an employee to offer a small sample tasting of some of the food items on their menu. When passersby accept the sample and taste it, they've taken the first tiny step toward a possible yes.

One interesting side note with this example: Notice that the employees handing out the samples aren't going all around the mall or outside in the parking lot at various hours of the day. They pass out the samples to people walking through the food court at lunch or dinnertime. The marketing takeaway: offer your services to people who are most likely to need what you sell when they need it the most.

FITD has been used for many years by door-to-door salespeople in many industries, from the person offering to clean a dirty spot on the carpet to the days of the encyclopedia salesperson (remember those?) who would offer a free three book starter set.

Perhaps the most notorious example is from the timeshare industry. In exchange for 90 minutes of your time, the FITD offer is a free resort stay or perhaps Disney World tickets. Does it work? Billions of dollars in timeshares sold would seem to indicate a big yes. These techniques are meant to persuade and work extremely well. The danger comes from unscrupulous sellers who abuse the power.

FITD has been used in the pharmaceutical industry with enormous success. Pharmaceutical sales representatives leave samples of the drugs their companies sell with the appropriate doctors. The physicians in turn give their patients a free sample along with a prescription that will lead them to become a customer of the pharmaceutical industry.

Yes -- Plum Grove uses this strategy too. We offer promotional product samples, personalized free memo pads and even given our clients free smartphone mobile websites.

What kind of FITD should you offer?
Your best FITD strategy should probably be not to "sell" anything at all. Only 2% of prospects are ready to buy at any time and less than 1% will typically buy anything on the first contact. Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer and ask yourself: What would I need (if I were a customer) to choose this company over the competition? What service or product can you use to let prospects 'test' you out that will put your best foot forward and help you make the best first impression?

Conclusion
The FITD strategy is an extremely powerful technique. If you're not currently using it or have used it in the past and forgotten about it, it's time to visit it again. Put together a plan to utilize FITD in your favor.

Selling successfully for the long term requires building trust with your prospects and even existing customers. The FITD strategy allows you to begin building that trust. But be careful. If it's done incorrectly or not done at all, then you may experience the door-in-the-face result which is what you want to avoid.

Until next time,

Peter "The Printer" Lineal
Founder/CEO
Plum Grove
2160 Stonington Avenue
Hoffman Estates, IL 60169
Ph: 847.882.4020 Ext: 133
www.PlumGrovePrinters.com
www.MailMadeSimple.com
www.PlumGroveAdSpecialties.com

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

6 Ways to Ramp Up Your Referral Marketing

It's no secret that one of the best ways to grow a business is through strong referrals. Whether these referrals come to you through a system you have in place or because of the solid reputation your business has built over the years, each referral is a precious gift. You have one chance to turn this opportunity into a client who will in turn refer others to your business.

If you drop the ball in some way, not only will you lose this chance for new business, but you could also discourage others from referring business to you. Therefore, you must handle these warm leads with extreme care. Here are six key steps to consider as you guide a referral into becoming a real customer.

  1. Respond quickly. Nothing will stop a referral process faster than slow response and showing a lack of urgency in communication. Lead360 conducted a study of 25 million data points which showed that successful conversion rates are 391% higher when a lead is called back within a minute, 120% within two minutes, 98% within three minutes, 62% in under thirty minutes, and 36% in under an hour. Clearly calling back and following up with referrals quickly is the first and most important part of the process.


  2. Gather information and qualify. Once contact has been made, it's time to gather any necessary information to make sure there's a good fit between what the referral is looking for and what you can provide. Having relevant, open-ended questions to ask will help you find what you're looking for while at the same time establishing your expertise in helping solve client problems. This is the time to develop insight into the scope of the opportunity and key factors.


  3. Be the expert. Once you've established that the referral is a good fit for your business, it's time to do your homework. You must spend a little time to learn about the referral's business. The more you learn about what your prospect is looking to solve, the better you can prepare a solution. This in turn will position you as the expert who took the time to present a customized solution when your competitors offered a generic, cookie-cutter bid.


  4. Make your offer stand out. The best way to make your offer stand out is by adding value. People like to buy, but they don't like to be sold to. You can add value and help your offer stand apart by helping a referral evaluate your capability and see their problem clearer. Relevant, simple, and insightful information that helps your prospect will lead them to buy much more readily than if they feel they are being sold to.


  5. Create a powerful experience. Turning a referral into a client can be as simple as contacting them quickly with information they're seeking. However, the real secret to make them truly want to do business with you on a consistent basis is to create a "wow" experience. Your "wow" experience doesn't have to be complex. Building it can be as simple as:

    • Responding to inquiries within 30 minutes

    • Offering a small gift or thank you note for contacting you

    • Sending a small gift or thank you to the person who made the referral

    • Delivering a professionally prepared, customized solution with clear information

    • Following up after the sale to answer any questions

    • Being persistent without being a pest


  6. Use technology. As great as your memory may be, relying on the old pen-and-paper system is just asking for trouble. The way to truly systematize the referral process is by using a CRM system that can help you track your referrals. Determine if the software will help you give the prospects the experience you set in your action plan. But remember that technology can only go so far. Sure, it can help you manage the referrals, but converting those leads into customers takes the human touch that only you can provide.


Turning referrals into customers is not an act of magic or accomplished through luck. It's done by developing an action plan and by implementing the plan. Keep track, stay organized, and monitor the process. Referral marketing can be a gift that keeps on giving, but only if it's treated with the care and respect it deserves.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Educating Your Way to a Sale

Your target audience is being bombarded by sales and marketing messages every day. Some estimates state that a person is exposed to more than 3,500 messages on average every single day! No wonder we develop strategies to filter out the hype and all the noise so we can get our work done. Otherwise our days would be consumed with sales presentations and various pitches to buy something.

This constant barrage of marketing has taken a toll on salespeople, too. Traditional sales methods that once worked well have been losing traction and are not effective anymore. But you still need to sell -- and you need to get your message across to your prospects. How can you do that without alienating them at the same time? One way to do that is to educate and help your prospects instead of simply selling them.

Educating your audience with relevant and useful information that will help them make a more informed buying decision allows you to establish yourself and your company as an expert who provides value before ever asking for a sale.

Establishing trust in this manner brings respect. Trust and respect open the way for your prospects to listen. Listening gives you access to valuable time your prospects reserve for those they believe will not waste it with hype and useless pitches.

To decide what kind of information your prospects find useful, you need to put yourself in their shoes. Developing a buyer persona on your most ideal prospects lets you get insight into the information, ideas, and advice that could make a positive difference in their lives and actually help in their decision-making process.

Selling is not a bad thing. Short-term thinking while selling, however, is not sustainable selling. Long-term selling is about nurturing, gaining trust, and establishing rapport. Doing this will lead not only to a first sale but also to a relationship that will garner repeat sales and referrals.

Establishing a strategic sales funnel allows you to introduce your products and services as a solution to a prospect's problem at the appropriate time. Nurturing relationships will lead to sales more naturally and organically, instead of taking a straight, forced path with a low chance of making a quick close.

One great example of this can be seen by walking into any Apple retail store. From the moment you walk in, the Apple employees are trained to educate you about the products in the store. No pushy salespeople. They actually want you to touch and test all the products on display.

In the back of the store, the "Genius Bar" provides technical help and in-depth training to encourage users to use Apple products. This in turn leads to more sales. Over 50,000 people visit the "Genius Bar" every day, and the majority who have used the services state that they are more likely to buy another Apple product as a result.

Educating your prospects and your customers is a long-term business sales strategy. It requires some time and resources. But if it is done well, the results will far outweigh the costs.

Monday, August 5, 2013

All Your Clients are VIP Clients

Even if you've already heard these statistics before or intuitively know them to be true based on your own experience, it may still be a bit startling to see them here again:
  • It can cost up to 7 times more to acquire one new client than to keep a current one.

  • The likelihood of a prospect buying from you is between 5 and 20%. The likelihood of an existing customer buying from you again is between 60 and 70%.
Based on these numbers, it's clear that nurturing and cultivating your existing client relationships can go a long way toward improving the health of your company's bottom line. However, many companies devote most of their marketing budgets to new customer acquisition, rather than trying to keep existing customers coming back. New leads and customers are important, but your existing customers should also hold a very high place on your list of marketing priorities.

How can you keep customers coming back?

Sending simple thank you cards to show your appreciation is one idea. A monthly printed or email newsletter that informs, educates, and entertains is another. Picking up the phone and having a real conversation is perhaps the least expensive, yet most powerful way to retain existing clients. Promotional products are a nice thank you gift too.

There are many ways to show your appreciation, but timing is essential if you want to maximize the effect. The first 30 to 90 days after your new customer comes on board is the most important time to begin showing them your appreciation. If you haven't done so already, create a blueprint for your remarkable customer experience plan that must be followed throughout your organization. Place one or two key people in charge of overseeing this plan to make sure it is implemented and followed through with every new customer.

This plan should have tasks and due dates attached for each activity. For example, your plan might call for a thank you card to be sent the day after a new customer comes on board. Gifts, lunches, coffee, phone calls, newsletters, and personal visits can all be part of the plan, as well. Make your customers feel like VIPs. Listen to their needs and respond quickly. What's critical here is that you have a plan, that you have someone who is accountable for implementing the plan, and that you include due dates for each task in the plan.

Creating a remarkable customer experience can be as simple or as complex as you would like it to be. The more remarkable and unique you can make it, the more memorable the experience will be. The key is to have a plan and to always remember that it is much less expensive and profitable to keep an existing customer happy than it is to acquire a brand new customer.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Are You a High-Margin Business?

Profits are the key to long term growth and survival for any business. Profits are what allows a business to invest and grow. Some businesses have higher profit margins than others. That can be due to the type of industry, the competitive landscape, and economic conditions.

There's often a direct correlation between the margins a business can charge and the amount of pain their products and services help to ease in the minds of the customers who buy them. Increasing this real and perceived value will directly impact profit margins.

Most businesses have a mixture of customers. To become a high-margin business, your goal must be to move the needle from lower-value customers to higher-value ones. The first step is to identify the types of customers your business attracts and pursues. Here are a few general characteristics to consider.

Low-Value Clients:
  • A large number are required in order to sustain profitability

  • Typically cause the most headaches

  • Want you to lower your prices

  • Make you feel like a commodity

  • Position you as the lower-value provider

  • Can and will leave you for a lower price at any time
High-Value Clients:
  • Provide greater profitability, so fewer are needed to help you reach your financial goals

  • Generate higher value with fewer headache

  • Help position you as an authority and valuable partner vendor

  • Give you higher credibility in the eyes of your other prospects
So how can you increase your perceived value?
  • Educate - Sell by teaching and sharing your expertise. Nothing is more powerful in positioning you as a business that is worthy of higher fees than actually showing how your products and services solve problems for your customers.


  • Show Results - Include testimonials and success stories from your past customers to help prospects understand what kind of real-world value you provide. Third-party validation works much better and is more believable than the same information stated as your own.


  • Offer a Powerful Guarantee - Guarantees not only help remove some of the doubts your prospects may have but also show that you believe in your products and services enough to stand behind them. Strong guarantees and warranties allow you to justify charging higher margins.


  • Get Endorsed - When possible, get an endorsement from a well-respected and known personality who can verify the quality and value you bring to the table. Your prospects will know that such a person would not vouch for a shoddy business or service. This increases the perceived value of your business in their eyes.


  • Promote - Promote your awards, achievements, membership associations, charitable contributions, and any other resources that will speak to your involvement in the community and the values you bring. Each of these builds further trust in the eyes of your audience. Each bit of added trust allows you to charge higher fees and margins in your business.
By increasing both the real value for your customers and the perceived value seen by your prospects, you will be able to increase your profit margins. Lots of companies can solve problems for their customers. Those that are able to tell the story of what, how, and why they solved those problems -- and to do so in a way that resonates with prospects -- are the ones that achieve higher margins.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Beware the Cycle of Doom -- starting with no sales prospects

The cycle of doom is the nightmare of every business owner and salesperson who works to attract prospects and customers. It occurs when you find yourself without a steady, predictable stream of high-quality prospects that turn into customers. As the cycle progresses, every day can feel like a challenge. Where are the next leads coming from? Where are the customers you're looking to gain?

"Your present circumstances don't determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start." - Nido Qubein


If you're stuck in a cycle of doom, you need to establish a system for attracting your ideal leads -- the people in your market who are looking for what you sell. Rest assured, such people do exist. The problem is that not enough of them know about your services and products.

That's where your lead-generation system will come into play.

"The fact is, everyone is in sales. Whatever area you work in, you do have clients, and you do need to sell." - Jay Abraham


Thousands of books and articles are written each year about the marketing and selling process. There are many variations and specific nuisances, but most of these resources can be distilled down to three relatively simple, uncomplicated steps.

The first is to determine exactly who your ideal customer is. The next is to make them aware of the solutions your products and services provide to solve their pain. The final step is to engage and answer any questions and objections before closing the sale.

Any lead-generation system you create needs to employ these strategies in order to make it a predictable source of continuous, high-quality prospects. Testing and measuring for what works best for your business is a never-ending and continual process. The important thing is to have an actual framework and base system in place to build upon.

Outbound marketing (direct mail, telemarketing, and traditional media) still works today, but you need to have a strategy in place first to attract and convert the type of audience you are hoping to reach. Blasting out unwanted information to the wrong audience didn't work well in the past, and it doesn't work today either.

Many businesses have learned that non-strategic social media posts and email blasts have the same characteristics as any other marketing fail. Offering low-value content leads to non-engagement, which ends up producing low-quality leads and zero customers.

The scariest feeling in business is not knowing where your next sale and customer are coming from. Everything is unsettled. You don't have the necessary confidence, and you don't control the conversation. As a result, you end up bending and twisting on price just to get a sale.

"Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments." - Jim Rohn


Getting out of the cycle of doom requires strategic thinking. Who do you want as a customer? What does this customer need in order to make decisions before they purchase what you sell? Where are the places you can communicate these messages with this customer?

Creating a system sets the groundwork for a predictable pipeline -- one that allows for a reserve of prospects and suspects you can rely on and pull from as needed. It also has the added benefit of giving you the luxury of turning down prospects who are not a good fit for your business.

When you have a systematic approach and tweak it until it works predictably, you control the process. Your business is in demand, and your services are valuable and scarce.

Become a valuable resource for the prospects you seek. Let them know on a consistent basis about the value you provide. Make it easy for them to find your valuable information. Systematize your process, and the cycle of doom will be an old nightmare that gets buried for good.

Monday, June 17, 2013

How Herbert Dow Beat a Low Price Competitor

Every industry and every business tends to have at least a few competitors who know only one way to compete: unreasonably low pricing. These businesses undercut pricing so much that few make any profits. Unfortunately, as they go down the tubes toward oblivion, they often drag a few good companies with them.

Everyone knows that competing is part of being in business. Problems occur when some companies don't want to play by the rules.

One man who ran into just this sort of problem was Herbert Dow.

Herbert Dow founded Dow Chemical in Midland, Michigan, after inventing a way to produce bromine inexpensively. He sold the chemical for industrial purposes all over the US for 36 cents per pound at the turn of the 20th century. He couldn't go overseas, however, because the international market was controlled by a giant German chemical cartel that sold it at a fixed price of 49 cents per pound. It was understood that the Germans would stay out of the US market so long as Dow and the other American suppliers stayed within their borders.

Eventually, Dow's business was in trouble, and he had to expand. He took his bromine to England and easily beat the cartel's fixed price of 49 cents per pound. Things were okay for a while, until a German visitor came to Michigan and threatened Dow that he had to cease and desist. Dow didn't like being told what to do, so he told the cartel to get lost.

Shortly thereafter, German bromine started appearing for sale in the US for 15 cents per pound, well below Dow's price. The cartel flooded the US market, offering the chemical far below their own costs, intending to drive Dow out of business. But Dow outsmarted them. He stopped selling in the US entirely and instead arranged for someone to secretly start buying up all the German bromine he could get his hands on. Dow repackaged it as his own product, shipped it to Europe, and made it widely available (even in Germany) at 27 cents per pound. The Germans were left wondering why Dow hadn't gone out of business and why there suddenly seemed to be such a high demand for bromine in the US.

The cartel lowered its price to 12 cents and then 10 cents. Dow just kept buying more and more, gaining huge market share in Europe. Finally, the Germans caught on and had to lower their prices at home. Dow had broken the German chemical monopoly and expanded his business greatly. And customers got a wider range of options for buying bromine at lower prices.

Dow went on to use the same trick against the German dye and magnesium monopolies. This is now the textbook way to deal with predatory price cutting.

The way Dow went about dealing with a low-ball competitor may not be the solution for you in dealing with your own competition. But his method does show that you can win by thinking creatively and putting some thought into outfoxing an opponent in other ways than just matching their low prices.

The Five Dollar Workday

Henry Ford, the famous Ford Motor Company founder, was known for many things. Among them was his role in promoting the assembly line as a viable means for mass-producing automobiles, a process that made cars more affordable for middle-class Americans.

Ford had a global vision with consumerism as one of its centerpieces. He had an intense commitment to lowering costs through systemization and building a more process-driven company.

This focus made his next move (which is not as well known) quite a shock at the time.

The Five Dollar Workday

In January 1914, Henry Ford made a radical decision. He increased Ford Motor Company employee wages from $2.34/day to $5/day (equivalent to approximately $110 today) and reduced the workday from nine hours to eight.

While this was one of the most generous pay hikes of its time, Ford didn't do this simply out of the goodness of his heart. At the time, the Detroit area was already becoming known for companies offering higher-than-average pay. In addition, the boredom of repetitious, assembly-line work led to higher employee turnover rates. One of the underlying reasons behind Ford's move to increase wages was the desire to attract and retain top-notch employees by effectively creating golden handcuffs.

Ford used his PR machine and news journalist contacts to spread the word about the generous pay. Soon, there were thousands of applicants at every Ford factory, which allowed the company to hire only the best applicants. The fortunate hires stayed with Ford much longer than they otherwise might, since they couldn't get similar pay elsewhere. In one bold move, Ford had managed to solve most of his company's labor problems.

But higher employee retention was only one benefit of Ford's plan. Within two short years of the pay raise, Ford's profits increased by 200% to $60 million per year. Within five years, Ford Model T's were rolling out at the rate of one every 24 seconds, much faster than the 12 days each had initially taken to produce. By the end of 1914, the 13,000 Ford Motor Company employees were producing 260,000 automobiles annually, while the rest of the automotive industry produced 280,000 combined.

At the time, much of corporate America did not view employees as an asset. Instead, they were seen as part of a company's expense. With this single move, Ford was able to open the eyes of the corporate world. Ford had created a workforce that became a model for the eight-hour workday and HR departments of today. More importantly, he set the pace for the eventual rise of middle-class America. Ford employees could actually afford to buy one of the cars they produced.

With the $5-per-day pay hike, Ford was able to reduce employee turnover, increase the pool of high-quality applicants, reduce absenteeism drastically, and attract top-notch employees. The corresponding morale increase led to the highest productivity rates in history.

So what's the moral of this story? What can we glean from it and apply to our own companies in the 21st century?

When companies shift their mindset from viewing employees as an expense item on the financials to an asset with vast potential, they can begin to see brighter possibilities for the whole company as well. Employees who truly believe they are appreciated and feel valuable to their company are much more likely to be highly productive and happy with what they are doing. Content employees are much less likely to actively seek opportunities elsewhere. Loyal, long-term employees lead to stability and customer satisfaction.

Henry Ford made a big splash with his five-dollar workday. The same kind of impact can be made today by implementing innovative ideas that show employees you appreciate what they do.

Studies and surveys have shown that higher pay is not the top motivator for employees to stay with their company. Feeling valued, being content in their role, and accomplishing larger goals are more important criteria. Find effective ways to instill those feelings in your employees, and you can make your own splash.

Friday, June 14, 2013

How to Grow Your Business During Any Economy -- and it's not by being the lowest priced provider

While the economy seems to be slowly recovering, it's far from smooth sailing, and many businesses are still struggling to find firm footing. Even so, you don't have to look hard to find businesses that are thriving. What's the secret behind these companies that the struggling ones haven't found?

It may be tempting to think that lowering prices is the best way to compete in a struggling economy. When times are tough, people think longer and harder before making the choice to buy something. But this doesn't mean they will always opt for the cheapest option. If they did, Apple wouldn't be the brand leader it is today. There are many inexpensive alternatives to Apple's popular products, yet they continue to break sales records with each successive new product release.

The Internet has made it easy to compare prices and find the cheapest alternative. Only one company can be the cheapest, and the low-price shopper will spend as much time as necessary to find what they are looking for.

This type of person is not your target customer because they will leave you as soon as they find someone else offering a lower price. There's no brand loyalty in this game. Instead, it's a race to the bottom, with eventual closure its only prize.

A Better Approach

The much better approach is to increase the value you bring to your marketplace instead of lowering your prices.

This value could be found in offering helpful knowledge to people looking for the types of products you sell. It could mean offering bonuses such as free shipping or discounted installation. It could be as simple as a friendly, smiling person greeting customers in store or on the phone. The more value you can find and bring to the table, the less impact price will have as the sole factor for buying what you sell.

When you bring value like that, you become invaluable to your community and to the types of customers you want to attract. These are customers who won't leave you for the latest sale by the low-price companies. Instead, they're real customers who come back because they appreciate real value.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Is Your Business Card Building Your Brand?

Typically, many hours are spent deciding on the logo, layout, and tagline to include on a company's business cards. But not much time goes into thinking about strategies to make those business cards actually work to build the brand and bring in customers.

Business cards are like mini ambassadors for your business. They represent you, your company, and your brand. Business cards often provide the first impression a recipient will have of you and your company. They shouldn't be just an afterthought in your marketing collateral mix.

To effectively market and advertise your business, whether through business cards, social media, or a website, the first step is to create awareness. Awareness is generated through uniqueness. The colors, stock, font, graphics, and unusual finishing touches like rounded corners or foil stamping and special die cutting can all add up to create a business card that stands out in a crowd.

Simple elegance and a clean, uncluttered layout work best. Sometimes more is learned about a business by the professional look and design of its business card than by almost any other marketing collateral. Prospects may forget about and toss out many other collateral pieces, but they usually keep an interesting business card.

Visually standing out is the first step to make a business card work to bring you business. The second involves the recipient and answering a simple five-word question...

What's In It For Me?

The text on your business card must quickly and clearly explain the benefits of working with you. You can't fit an entire brochure on the small area a business card provides (although some people try!). Most companies will list the services they provide. That is fine to do on the back of a business card.

On the front, however, where everyone looks first, you need to state clearly what results your products and services deliver. What is the primary benefit of working with your company? Make it short and sweet. Don't hide it. Proudly display it on the front of the card.

The quality of the stock used, the font and layout, the finishing touches, and the copy used all work hand in hand to create a powerful, client-getting business card.

But those beautiful cards won't do much good if they aren't getting deployed. Take business cards everywhere you go. Put a stack in your car, in your wallet, and in your purse or briefcase. If you find the right target audience, hand them not one but several cards and ask them to pass the extras along to colleagues or friends who might be able to use your services.

Strategically thinking about the design, production, and copy on your business cards has the effect of creating a viral campaign for your business. Unlike the online variety, this is a viral campaign that can actually bring you real results and not just buzz in the marketplace.

Friday, April 26, 2013

You Have to Be Easy in the Buying Experience

Making it as easy as possible to do business with your company seems like a logical and simple concept, yet many businesses unwittingly create hurdle after hurdle for their customers to jump just for the privilege of doing business with them.

Customers are already overburdened with complexities, rules, and regulations. Companies that deliver with the least hassle win more business than others.

To be sure, there are some necessary steps and processes for each business transaction, but the task for every business should be to do away with as many of the unnecessary ones as possible.

Let's take Apple computers and their packaging as just one example. An Apple product comes in a package that combines elegance, simplicity, and art. When you hold the typical Apple product package, you realize before even opening the box that this is a different kind of product. Everything has a place and reason. Much thought has gone into what is usually an afterthought with most companies.

Steve Jobs was known as an obsessive person. A big reason for his success was his obsession with removing complexity and simplifying. He knew that the company which removed the most confusion actually ended up gaining the most customers. Jobs wanted his products to be so simple and intuitive that they didn't need an owner's manual.

If you want to grow your business and for your clients to actually enjoy the buying process, you must obsessively work to continually remove as many obstacles as possible, while at the same time simplifying how customers buy from you.

Start by regularly asking yourself: "How can we make ordering from us even easier?"

It's a process. You'll know you've arrived when your customers actually have pleasant thoughts and smile when ordering instead of the typical angst most experience. Being the easiest to do business with will bring many long-term rewards.

Peter "The Printer" Lineal
Founder/CEO
Plum Grove
2160 Stonington Avenue
Hoffman Estates, IL 60169
Ph: 847.882.4020 Ext: 133
www.PlumGrovePrinters.com

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